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Comments

Glenn E. Chatfield

I agree with everything highlighted, but that is not restricted to the clergy - I dare say many, many lay people meet the same qualifications. There is one point the author mentions PROFESSIONAL interpreters needing an understanding of the original tongues - again I agree for a PROFESSIONAL. But one needs not be a professional - i.e. cleric - in order to meet all the other qualifications. Granted, a large percentage of group Bible studies are led by those with spiritual immaturity, but to paint a broad brush that only clergy should lead studies harkens back to the idea that only the pope and priests can properly interpret the Bible, or only through Mormon leaders can one properly interpret the Bible, or only with the help of the Watchtower can one properly interpret the Bible, or only in the light of E.G. White's writings can one properly interpret the Bible. My complaint with this whole line has been that rather than say a large percentage of studies are led by unqualified people (and being a lay person isn't what makes them unqualified), what is being implied - as also with the posters - is that NO ONE except clergy is qualified to lead a Bible study.

By the way, not knowing the original languages isn't so much a handicap any more since we have so many commentaries, handbooks, dictionaries, lexicons and other tools at our disposal - we let those who have the first-hand knowledge teach us from their books!

Piratechristian

Glenn,

Here's nub of the problem. In many Purpose-Drive / Seeker-Driven churches the "Professional Pastor" has ceased to dispense the duties of the teaching office in the church. They've fallen in love with being CEO's (something Christ has neither called or authorized them to do). And they are now giving weekly self-help lectures to so-called "seekers" in order meet their felt needs.

As a result, the duties of the teaching office in these churches are now the responsibility of untrained laymen in Home Study Groups. These home study leaders are doing the pastors job without being trained or qualified to do so. The reason this article is important is because it shows the seriousness and study required to publicly teach and interpret God's Word.

How many people would be Home Study Group leaders if people understood that in order to meet the Biblical qualifications to teach the church that this was what was required of them?

JB

It really doesn't seem fair to me to only be targeting the Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven style churches. Most churches have at home Bible studies,Sunday school classes, or "small group" style ministries. Plus whats wrong with a Pastor leading a large church staff if the size of the ministry warrants it? If God blessed your church to be running several thousand people and it needed extra staff to meet the needs of the church, who would you have lead. Would you actually hire a ceo and have the pastor just preach?

Srbricker.blogspot.com

I question some assumptions of legitimacy here:

Teaching office - While there were and are those who have the spiritual gift of teaching and elders/overseers must be able to teach for their role, the biblical mandate is to disciple. This is best accomplished, not by trained-and-ordained individuals, but by each mature member of the body of Christ taking the immature under his wing. This is the crux of Matt 28:19 and 2 Tim 2:2.

Pastor as CEO - Typically, today's pastorate holds the keys of power barring gross abuse or negligence. As a result, he and his staff (in the case of large churches) end up doing one of two things: 1) lording over the people; or 2) inhibiting the people's spiritual growth by being placed in a status not found in Scripture by virtue of their office in the local church (i.e. It's the pastor's job to do thus and so). Even when an elder board is present to govern, the pastor's desires are given weight over another plan, opinion, or even biblical mandate.

The warnings being given in these blog posts of late are important, but let's not make wrong assumptions our basis.

Steve

Franz

"If God blessed your church to be running several thousand people.." You argument is backwards. You don't have a huge group of people and then decide what a pastor is. Meaning, our church is so big we need to change the roll of pastor and make this new office called "Pastor who doesn't preach, but organizes everything." You have what a pastor is from scripture. The church would have several pastors if need be to fulfill the roles. Or an even better idea...start another church! What does it matter if they are 5 miles apart. There would def. need to be a hierarchical(sp?)system in place though...I think it's called Bishop.
And we must not be afraid to call out Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven churches by what they are. Not fair you say, what about the people being led astray by their false doctrine...that's really not fair.

Akira Kurasawa

Your last few posts about the dangers of small group Bible studies, are just kind of sad Chris. You characterize most small group leaders as ill-qualified, but do nothing to back up your allegations. You just paint with your typical broad brush.

I will agree 100% with the Biblical qualifications that you give for pastors/small group leaders. I agree with most of what you highlight on Milton Terry. However, your personal assessment of "most small group leaders" when you have probably never even met them, much less sat in on one of their meetings is just dishonest.

If you have sat in on a small group meeting that was a problem, then address the person man to man and let them know.

But I hope that you never say anything that could be misconstrued or taken out of context and used against you. Because there just might be someone, just like you, sitting out there listening to what you say, who can't wait to run home and post on their blog site about the "heresies" that you are starting, and how unqualified you are...

Most people can see the damage that something like that can do to the body of Christ.

Chris Rosebrough (@PirateChristian)

Akira,

My assessment of the typical small group leader is based in both personal experience sitting in on different small groups and current research that I've conducted over the past 3 years by interviewing small group leaders from a variety of churches.

I am NOT the one causing damage to the body of Christ by pointing out that the VAST majority of small group leaders are neither qualified to be teaching the Bible but also that a significant portion of them aren't even trained yet alone supervised regarding what they teach. In those churches that have shifted to a "Small Group FACILITATOR" model its even worse because facilitators are instructed to value everyone's input and told not to make value judgement's regarding a person's input and ideas into the group discussion.

Sorry but, the ones causing damage to the Body of Christ are the ones who've changed the church by introducing these innovations that are contrary to what the scriptures clearly lay out regarding those who are qualified to publicly teach in the church.

As for my qualifications, I have a degree in Religious Studies & Biblical Languages and a minor in History. I have taught in the church in a public teaching ministry for nearly 2 decades under the direct and active supervision of 4 different pastors. I have studied and shown myself approved as a workman who rightly divides the word of truth. I AM qualified to teach in the church.

As for the charge of heresy, puhleeease.

Akira Kurasawa

I think you need to read a little closer Chris, and not assume that my statements were a blanket attack against you.

I was not charging you with heresy. The only information that I have about your teaching is what I hear on your web radio programs, and they are very Biblically based and in my opinion, anything but heretical. However, I would say the same thing about the small group leaders that I have had dealings with. Biblically based, not heretical. My statement was more along the line of that the sword cuts both ways, be careful...

Secondly, I wasn't asking for your credentials (though you seem anxious to share them). I have read what you have written on your blog for many years now. While you and I may differ on opinions, I would never even call your credentials into question. That would be a personal attack and inappropriate. Your words speak volumes for your understanding and ability.

So let me reiterate what I said before. YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERY SMALL GROUP LEADER. You have experience with some isolated cases, but you paint every leader with your criticism. This is just dishonest.

The small group that I am involved with is studying the Gospel of John. In the past we have studied the books of 1st and 2nd Peter and also the book of Acts. We do not accept everyone's views. Sometimes we as a group look at someone and say "that's just not right" and we discuss it and move on.

Chris, I think your fear of group leaders comes from a deep seated fear that pastors will lose central control. A fear that lay people might actually study the Bible, learn something that disagrees with you and then share it with someone else. Could this happen? Sure, but that is why Christians must be taught to think and read and study. So that when something pops up in group that is incorrect, the leader doesn't correct them... the group does, because they are constantly in the word and studying.

If you don't understand how beneficial that kind of a small group can be... well I guess we are done talking.

Blessings,

Chris Rosebrough (@PirateChristian)

Akira,

Now THIS is a good conversation.

1. I am NOT NOT NOT saying ALL small group leaders are unqualified. My research leads me to believe that the majority fit this description.

That being said there are still a significant number of churches that utilize small group studies and the Pastor or the Pastoral Staff have direct oversight and are training the leaders, teaching the leaders and putting down any and all false doctrine that creeps up. This is no longer the majority but they still exist in significant numbers. I have ZERO problems with this use of small groups.

My conclusions are based upon research that requires me to use samples to draw conclusions about the greater trends in the church.

2. I don't "fear" small group leaders. The point of these posts is to address some very REAL problems that exist in the church NOT because of small groups per se but because of new leadership models and practices where the Pastors no longer shepherd their flocks, teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who teach false doctrine. Instead, these new CEO Entrepreneurial church leaders abdicate their Biblical duties and responsibilities and they end up falling to untrained and Biblically unqualified laymen.

This is NOT the Biblical model and qualitative surveys like the RevealNow study show over and again that this model is failing to produce mature Christian Disciples. But, CEO Entrepreneurial pastors don't really care because they naively believe that all growth is good growth and the only thing that matters is that their little church empires are growing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I keep coming back to the Biblical qualifications for those who publicly teach in the church because I think it offers a corrective as well as an explanation as to why this new innovative leadership model is failing.

Piratechristian

Akira,

I want to share part of an email that I received to day that I think makes the points I've been making and is a perfect example of the issues i've uncovered in my research.

Here's the email...

I am a member of a church whose pastor, before he retired, was big into Rick Warren and who introduced the small-group Bible study concept. I am glad he did because of friendships formed, but I have NOT been pleased with some of the "Bible studies" we did. We moved to the area just after the whole church [as many small groups as the staff could form, that is] did Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose, so we missed that, but people raved about how wonderful it was. A year later, we did 40 Days of Community. In between we did a few John Ortberg video series [AAUUGGGHHH!!]. Then our small group leader [actually with a Concordia teaching degree] resigned due to lack of time to prepare, and no one wanted to lead. I volunteered so as to keep the group going, subject to my being able to pick the studies. I went with Concordia studies so as to avoid the PDL-type stuff, which I didn't like but couldn't quite put my finger on why I didn't. Perhaps this is too much background! But I have not been comfortable, as a woman, leading the study, although perhaps I am the "most qualified" if you count 8 years of elementary parochial school! I think men should step up. But I had seen your demotivational posters and felt the same way, with lay-led small group Bible studies being, too often, pooling of ignorance. Even though there ARE "back of the book" answers, they don't always cover all the questions. We DO ask our pastors if we have questions, but we have to be aware that we're on the wrong track: if we think we "got it right," we don't ask. It seems small group studies are here to stay in our church, and that being the case, the best solution seems to be studies from CPH which presumably have all passed doctrinal review.

It's bad enough to not have trained leaders, but worse are the choices that are too often popular ?Christian? authors who are "fun" and "relevant." I am at least trying to push for CPH studies in the groups I am in, but too often I get the response that they are boring. Joyce Meyer, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, and others whose names I have forgotten are too popular with the touchy-feely women in our women's studies. There also is often talk of "God laid it on my heart to . . . " or "God told me that. . . . " I feel like I'm in a Community Christian Church! Oh, one more thing: I hear a lot of " [insert horrible situation here] is really difficult, but I know God has a plan for my life, so it will all work out." I feel [oops, bad word choice?] that Jeremiah 29:11 is as mis-used as the Prayer of Jabez. Wasn't the nation of Israel the subject of Jeremiah 29:11? We can learn from it that God cares for His people, but not that God has an exact plan for EACH person! I liked in the "think-along" episode that you talked about "getting it wrong" with The Plan if we miss our "vision," or however you worded it.

The story of this small group is exactly the same stories I am hearing about the MAJORITY of small groups. Notice the lack of qualified leadership, the reliance on store bought curriculum, notice the subjectivity, notice the good Biblical content is deemed "boring". I could go on and on.

What do you think is at the root of this epidemic?

Steven Bricker

"What do you think is at the root of this epidemic?" There are multiple forces at work here, both internal and external.

Qualified leadership - There is a perception that the only proper path to qualification is via Bible school and/or seminary. Solid one-on-one or small group discipleship is as effective though it takes longer to accomplish.

Subjectivity - It is easy as no effort is involved to form critical thinking. Also, emotional responses are deemed to be on par with factual. American culture has a "meet the felt need" mentality in which Christians have become ensnared.

"Boring" Doctrine - Doctrine is only boring when no practical value can be seen. Men especially need to be able to work this information out (i.e. take it for a drive and see how it handles). In addition, my recollection of catechesis and confirmation is one of rote memorization. There were plenty of facts akin to memorizing a phone book but no relevant application. Tragically, we taught people that doctrine is boring.

Steve (aka srbricker.blogspot.com above)

Piratechristian

Steven,

Let me see if your comments make any sense at all.

Qualified Leadership - If your assertion is correct then the reason why small group is having the problems that we saw in the email I posted is because they have a seminary trained pastor. So if they got rid of their seminary trained pastor then they'd be taught sound Biblical doctrine that isn't subjective. Does that make any sense to you? It doesn't make any sense to me.

Subjectivity - Your thoughts make sense on this topic.

"Boring" Doctrine" - Can you give me a practical way I can apply the doctrine of God's Omnipresence to my life?

Akira Kurasawa

Chris, I can tell by your final response to Steven that you are beginning your tactic of attacking the person and not the question, so I think we are about finished here...

If you look at the e-mail that you quoted there are several things that I would like to point out. I think we are going to disagree on our opinion, but I would like to point out a different view point...

"We moved to the area just after the whole church [as many small groups as the staff could form, that is] did Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose, so we missed that, but people raved about how wonderful it was. A year later, we did 40 Days of Community. In between we did a few John Ortberg video series [AAUUGGGHHH!!]."

This quote shows that the person already had a personal bias against doing any of these topics or studies. That is fine, but it is a PERSONAL bias, not a doctrinal bias. Now I know that you feel that there are some doctrinal problems with Warren, not sure of your opinion on Ortberg, but the persons objection wasn't doctrinal... it was based on personal preference.

"I went with Concordia studies so as to avoid the PDL-type stuff, which I didn't like but couldn't quite put my finger on why I didn't. "

Again these objections are not doctrinal but based on personal preference. Which does not support your allegations at all. Your arguments are based on theological and doctrinal problems, not presonal preferences.

"But I had seen your demotivational posters and felt the same way, with lay-led small group Bible studies being, too often, pooling of ignorance. Even though there ARE "back of the book" answers, they don't always cover all the questions. We DO ask our pastors if we have questions, but we have to be aware that we're on the wrong track: if we think we "got it right," we don't ask."

Here again is a personal preference. The writer seems to prefer questions with answers in the back of the book and when that doesn't work, the final authority is the pastor. Should we ask our pastors the hard questions? Absolutely. But do pastors have all the answers? Nope. Sometimes by wrestling with the tough questions in a group we grow together and we grow as Christians. Sometimes we need to get off of the milk and onto the solid food to grow spiritually.

"...the best solution seems to be studies from CPH which presumably have all passed doctrinal review.
It's bad enough to not have trained leaders, but worse are the choices that are too often popular ?Christian? authors who are "fun" and "relevant." I am at least trying to push for CPH studies in the groups I am in, but too often I get the response that they are boring. Joyce Meyer, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, and others whose names I have forgotten are too popular with the touchy-feely women in our women's studies."

and here I think is the other crux of the matter. The writer really has a problem with the fact that her home group wants to do material that isn't "blessed" by CPH. No doctrinal concerns, no problems with what this author says, just I don't like it. It's not from CPH, so it must be bad.

The sad thing Chris is that you posted this e-mail as proof supporting your ideas. Your primary source of information dislikes the home group she is leading because of her feelings that something is wrong. Nothing concrete, just feelings.

And sadly, I am not sure you even realized your error. The proof that you offerproves nothing but that people like what they like, and anything else makes them uncomfortable because it is not what they like.

Blessings,

Steven Bricker

I do not dismiss seminary training when properly used. I do object to placing that individual in a place of superiority or prominence skewing the balance of each believer working interdependently in the local church. The point of my initial comment was that this was not necessary if the church functioned as it should. The apostolic and early post-apostolic church did very well without this specialized education.

As to doctrine, I try to teach using examples from Scripture. For omnipresence (as well as omniscience and omnipotence), I would turn to Psalm 139 to show the relationship of these attributes to my life. For instance, we see how God is intimately knowledgeable of every thought, word, and deed I have. Then there is the Lord's presence wherever I am--most comforting (and convicting in some circumstances) to know I am never out of His presence. That just touches on your question, but the practical application can be made.

Steve

Piratechristian

Akira,

Your comments were very helpful. I think you and I are talking past each other and I blame myself for the breakdown in communication. I haven't fully built my case and made my case that this ultimately is a doctrinal problem NOT a personal preference problem. Your comments really brought to light the fact that we are both dealing with an entirely different set of presuppositions. I appreciate you sticking in there.

Rather than continue to comment back and forth I am going to spend some time synthesizing my research and begin building a DOCTRINAL case that works from some very specific theses. Stay tuned. It may take me a few weeks to distill my research down into that form. Once I do, I would truly appreciate your comments and feedback.

Piratechristian

Steve,

Who in your opinion, is the person in the church that has authority to exercise church discipline?

Akira Kurosawa

Looking forward to your findings, Chris. You are in my prayers as you research.
Have a great day.

Blessings,

Steven Bricker

The elders/overseers have chief responsibility for church discipline, since they are to have the practical and spiritual qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).

Steve

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